The de Blasio administration will spend more than $5 million to help stamp out a burgeoning sexual harassment scandal in the public schools, city officials said Tuesday.
The funds will be used to hire 11 staffers who could start as soon as July as part of a citywide effort to address sexual harassment in public agencies.
The new hires will include eight investigators who will double the size of the staff at the city Education Department’s Office of Equal Opportunity.
De Blasio spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie said the new staff will enable the city’s largest agency to better investigate allegations of sexual harassment.
City sex harassment stats leave out over 100 school complaints
“We’re hiring these additional staff at DOE to expand their (Equal Employment Opportunity) office and help ensure they’re able to investigate and close complaints in a timely fashion,” Lapeyrolerie said.
The new hires come as the city’s handling of sexual harassment complaints has drawn criticism within the #MeToo movement.
De Blasio administration officials reported on April 20 that there were 471 sexual harassment complaints within the 140,000-employee city Education Department from 2014-2017.
But that figure was roughly 25% lower than the true number — which the Daily News revealed a week later — of 590 complaints.
Just seven of those cases, representing less than 2% of complaints, were ever substantiated.
De Blasio said the reason the Department of Education has so many unsubstantiated complaints is that many people who claim to be victims of sexual harassment are lying.
“There’s been a bit of a hypercomplaint dynamic, sometimes for the wrong reasons,” the mayor said when asked about the matter on April 25. “I think that has inflated the numbers.”
But research shows very few people file frivolous reports of sexual harassment because whistleblowers often face retaliation.
Critics said the Education Department will face challenges policing its vast workforce, even after the new hires.
“This is a start but needs continuous monitoring to assure adequacy,” said CUNY education professor David Bloomfield. “Investigators will be torn between speedy resolution and investigative quality.”
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